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For the love of long copy

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There’s a poster doing the rounds these days at ad agency offices. It’s a rather long one, asking writers to, well, try their hands at long-copy ads. The earnest appeal doesn’t stop there. The ones that do send in their entries will have their work judged by some of the best national and international copywriters. They will also be hosted on a popular advertising website.

Long-copy ads may be getting short shrift today in a world that is increasingly banking on snappy lines and catchy pictures, but there are some bravehearts who are willing to stick their necks out to rekindle interest back again in the craft.

28-year-old Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, a copy controller at Ogilvy & Mather, Delhi, is doing just that, with his initiative titled Longhand. “I’ve been running a community on Facebook called ‘Put Headline Here’ for the last four months. Anybody interested in long-copy ads can be a part of it, share their ads, post their thoughts. I’ve about 1,000 fans for my Facebook page,” he says.

But creating a community of like-minded individuals is one part, and keeping alive the interest is another.

Dasgupta soon realised he would have to do something more to surprise his fans.

That’s when the idea of a competition struck him. “I found it interesting,” says the young copywriter, who has spent seven years in advertising, having done time with agencies such as Bates (in Kolkata) and Rediffusion (in Delhi) besides Ogilvy.

The competition went live last week and since then Dasgupta has received three entries. “I am expecting about 60-70 entries by the end of this month,” he says.

The way the competition works is as follows: Interested people have to click on an event link on the ‘Put Headline Here’ page. This link allows them to participate in the Longhand competition. On submission of entries based on certain briefs, their work will be screened by a committee of Indian jurors comprising Swapan Seth, brother of Suhel Seth, who is co-CEO of Equus Red Cell, the agency in which WPP has a 30 per cent stake; Emmanuel Upputuru, national creative director, Publicis India; Satbir Singh, managing partner & chief creative officer, Euro RSCG India; Ashish Chakravarty, creative chief at McCann-Erickson, Delhi and Nima D T Namchu, executive creative director, Contract Advertising.

These jurors will shortlist entries, which will be judged by the full panel including the above-mentioned names plus two more: advertising legends Neil French and Indra Sinha. Dasgupta who has keenly followed both Sinha and French says he was nervous when writing to the advertising greats. It helped that both advertising legends were on Facebook.

And true to his nature, French came up with a whacky brief: To sell a little-known Indian whisky brand called Gambler. The uniqueness about Gambler, which is marketed by an Indian company called Twenty-4-Seven Trading is that it is sold in 50-ml satchets, says Dasgupta. The brief was to write an ad for Gambler whisky that attempted to change the perception problem of whisky satchets in India.

This along with four other briefs including ones on child labour, don’t drink & drive, use of a fictitious brand of condoms called 69 Condoms and selling the Art Direction Book to art directors were put up on the Longhand page.

Dasgupta is clearly excited about the competition. So are the jurors. Publicis’ Upputuru says, “It is indeed a good effort by Bodhisatwa. But it was equally kind of Neil French and Indra Sinha to agree to judge the competition.”

Way to go!

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